How Being Old Helps Me Get My Steps in Every Day


Photo by Kamil S on Unsplash

A few years ago I noticed that a lot of my friends were wearing big, rubber-encased watches. I saw those friends gazing at their watches as we strolled through various gardens and along a few beaches.

“This is a Fitbit!” one friend told me. “It measures my steps, keeps track of my heart rate, counts calories and reminds me to drink more water!” 

Oh.

As a confirmed non-athlete, I was unimpressed. 

Fast forward several years, however, and I found myself the slightly abashed owner of my own pink Fitbit. Covid was raging, and as a good Italian woman, I had spent several weeks trying to cook my way out of danger. I was, shall we say, getting chubby. Or to quote my adorable three-year-old grandson, I was “nice and squishy.” 

So I got a Fitbit. I vowed to slim down. I promised to count my steps.

If you are even a little bit aware of current fitness ideas, you will know that a “fit” person is supposed to take a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. With a Fitbit on one’s wrist, one can carefully plan where to walk in order to reach the magic number.

At first, the very idea of walking so much seemed out of reach. I mean, really? I live in a small house, how many steps could there be in the average day of an average old lady?

It seemed somewhat out of reach, I’ll be honest. I thought I’d have to go “hiking” in order to reach the magic number. My young, healthy sons told me about how they had to plan extra walks to make it that far. In the middle of the worst lock-down days, one of them even made a video of himself walking around and around in his own apartment, book in hand, just to get the last couple of hundred steps.

I thought that hitting 10,000 steps would be a major stretch for my aging, squishy self.

But, guess what? 

I underestimated the physical benefits of being old. I did not anticipate the wonderful impact of a wicked bad memory.

As it turns out, people my age take a whole boatload of extra steps every day. 

I’ll give you an example.

This morning, with my Fitbit on my wrist, I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen. I turned on the coffee pot, then realized that I had left my phone in my room. Back to the bedroom, where I noticed that my bed wasn’t made. Took care of that, went back to the kitchen for coffee. Remembered the phone again. Back to the bedroom. Decided to do laundry, so I grabbed the hamper and headed downstairs to the laundry room. Back to the kitchen, where I poured the coffee and sat down to sip. 

And I realized that I still didn’t have my phone. Back to the bedroom.

You get the idea, right? I took around 500 extra steps, just trying to grab my phone.

In the course of a single day, a nice mature person like myself might go into the bedroom five or six extra times. We might go all the way into the garage to take a chicken out of the freezer, then come back upstairs after leaving said chicken on top of the dryer. And down we go again.

So, see?

It is actually way easier for older people like me to hit 10,000 steps than it is for our 20 something kids to get that far. 

I might still be “squishy”, but you better believe I am getting way, way, WAY more than 10,000 steps a day just going through my day.

Grace Under Pressure?


You know, when I’m daydreaming and sort of just fantasizing about life, I picture myself as a person who would display enormous grace under pressure.

I imagine myself hearing scary news and reacting in a calm and measured way. “Well,” I imagine myself saying to my doctor, “I’m just so happy that I live in a time when there are good treatments for this disease.”

I see the looks that my dear family would share. “Isn’t she amazing?” I imagine them murmuring. “So brave.”

When I picture myself (too often these days) facing a world on fire, a world where the grid has gone down and the food supply chain is broken, I see a strong, brave woman. I see myself channeling my inner Ma Joad, bracing myself to face the danger with a sturdy back and an unflappable courage.

In my head, I am always serene but strong. I do not waver. I smile through the darkest moments. I rise above the challenges that face me, ready to take on any struggle in order to take care of those I love.

I am, of course, completely full of shit as far as this fantasy is concerned.

I know this because for the one and only time in my life (so far), I have a couple of minor medical issues facing me. I am not dying. I do not have a terminal illness. I sort of have more of an annoying few days of medical tests to make sure I don’t need some medical intervention.

Should be nothing.

But it’s something.

The reality of my life is this:

I am not a serene, calm, accepting older woman who is ready to take on any challenge. Instead, I am a scared, whiny, weepy mess of a woman who wants to curl up under my covers with a box of cookies and a glass of wine. I want my kids. I want my mommy. I want a boatload of m&ms.

I am disappointed in me, to be honest. I’m afraid that when the shit hits the proverbial fan, I won’t be the one to organize the neighbors into a rescue force. I won’t be the kind and wise lady who sets up a foraging team to feed the kids in town. I doubt that I’ll be the resilient leader who looks at the reality of the situation yet manages to stay hopeful in the face of disaster.

I suspect, to my chagrin, that if I get scary medical news in the next few weeks I’ll start whimpering and I won’t stop until I’m either all alone or no longer capable of whimpering.

I don’t want to be a horrible and wimpy aging human. I don’t.

But I’m not sure how to turn myself into the person I see in my head.

Any suggestions?

Finding Joy in Small Moments


It’s really, really hot outside. It’s so humid that going outside feels like taking a nice long walk through a bowl of soup.

A hurricane is on its way up the coast, washing away our planned boating trip off of Cape Cod.

My local hospital and doctor’s offices have been completely screwing up the first potentially serious procedure I’ve ever had to have done.

And I just finished an 8 week excruciating process to wean off of a medication that helped me with pain, sleep and anxiety.

I’m cranky, kids. I’m wicked cranky.

But you know what?

We got bunnies this year!

I’ve lived out here in semi-rural Massachusetts for over thirty years. I’m used to seeing deer out there. Don’t get me started on the ever present squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, mice and raccoons. We see skunks, foxes and coyotes. We’ve even had bears a few times.

But this summer is the summer of the bunny rabbit. Adorable, soft, bright-eyed little bunnies are everywhere, twitching their little bunny noses and flashing those little white puff ball tails. We have bunnies living under fallen brush, beneath the branches of our overgrown rhododendron and snuggling in the tall grass at the edge of the yard.

And they make me smile every time I see one.

Sure, having a tiny ball of fur hopping around has been known to turn my dogs into slavering, howling beasts, but even that is kind of funny.

Just now one little bunny friend, whom the kids and I have named “Lily”, was calmly working her way through a patch of clover about two feet outside of our dog fence. Bentley and Lennie were hysterically barking, racing back and forth along the fence, threatening to tear her limb from limb.

She just kept munching.

I had to laugh. The dogs were determined to get her. She knew they couldn’t.

I loved it.

For a few minutes I forgot that the Gulf of Mexico caught fire this week. I stopped worrying about the ever increasing number of clinically insane members of Congress. I even forgot to be mad at my doctor.

Just a fluffy little bunny, but her sassy attitude sure turned around my bad mood.

Now I need to go see if I can find some turkeys. Those things are freakin hilarious.

Self Reflection or Self Loathing?


Photo by Albert Dera on Unsplash

When I was a teacher, a great deal of my time was taken up with helping children to manage their social lives. A lot of time was spent helping the kids deal with their anger and frustration as they interacted with other kids.

I have a very clear memory of one intervention. A little boy had been somewhat unkind to his classmate. He didn’t think he’d been mean, of course. He thought that he had just stated the obvious. But his “obvious” was painful and cruel, and his classmate was in tears.

I let each of the kids express themselves, without interruption or response. Then I addressed the child who had been rude.

“Do you think you should apologize to your classmate, and tell them that you didn’t intend to be hurtful?”

His response was unsurprising, but it was also frustrating.

“Why do I need to say that I was bad?”, he asked.

I took a breath.

“Nobody is calling you bad,” I began. “In fact, I know you well enough to know that you are not a bad kid. You are not mean. But your words hurt your classmate.”

It took some time, and a good deal of patience. But eventually, this little ten year old child was able to apologize for the actions that had caused pain. He was able to talk to me about the fact that he hoped he could learn not to say hurtful things.

So.

Self-reflection was a gift to this little boy. Self-reflection helped him, as it helps all of us, to move forward towards a better future. This tender hearted little person chose to look closely at his actions so that he could slowly and carefully become a better human being.

Self-reflection.

The chance to look at our actions, our words, our beliefs. A chance to improve ourselves as human being, in an effort to make the world a somewhat better place for other human beings.

Seems like a worthy activity for a ten year old, right? Stop being mean on the playground. Stop saying mean things. Don’t laugh at your friends when they struggle. Be kind. Be good. Be helpful.

Every adult I have ever met in my 65 years of life would applaud the efforts of this little child, and would congratulate him on trying to be a better person.

So.

Why is it so upsetting and unpatriotic when we ask our country to do the same self-reflection? Why do so many Americans see this kind of introspection as an attack?

I don’t know.

But I don’t like it.

As an old white lady, I am certainly full of self reflection when I look back on the beliefs of my childhood. I was raised in an upper-middle-class white suburb of Boston. My parents were first generation Americans who thought of themselves as open minded and accepting. And they were, within the context of the 1960s in Massachusetts.

I certainly believed myself to be a nice, non-racist, good person.

But you know what?

When I went to college and met people from a hundred different backgrounds, I realized that even though I meant well, I had whole lot to learn about the world around me. I learned that the United States was NOT always seen as a benevolent and kind benefactor. I learned that in spite of what I’d been taught, slavery was not a short term, temporary financial system that helped to create the “greatest nation in the history of the world.”

I learned a lot.

And I am still learning.

I am learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre. And the history of the KKK. I am learning about the horrific crimes committed by the CIA in the 50s and 60s.

I am reflecting on the history of the country in which I live. The country where I was born. I am looking at this nation with the eyes of one who wants to be better. One who wants to understand what lead to our triumphs and to our losses.

I am self-reflecting.

Shouldn’t we all be doing that? Shouldn’t every citizen of every nation be looking at their history and assessing what has been good and what has been a mistake? Shouldn’t we all be emulating my young student as we try to become something a bit better than what we were before?

For most of my adult life, every time I’ve questioned the actions of my government, I’ve been met with something akin to the phrase, “America; love it or leave it!”

The implication has always been that if I question any aspect of my government’s actions, I must hate America and I should immediately leave.

I’ve been called a “Russky” and a “Commie” when I’ve questioned the wisdom and morality of the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve been told that I should pack up and move to China when I’ve complained about the inflated power of corporate lobbyists in the creation of our national laws.

Worst of all, though?

The worst part of this, to me, is the fact that I have been accused of “hating” my country when I question her commitment to equality.

Because I believe that Black Lives Matter, I’ve been told that I hate the American dream. Because I have stated my support for gender equality and full acceptance of my gay fellow citizens, I’ve been told that I despise the very ideals on which this country was founded.

And so I find myself troubled, angry and bewildered. I find myself with only one response at hand.

“BullSHIT”

That’s all I have to say to those to want to claim that any self-reflection on the part of this American society is an exercise in self-loathing.

I question the founding principles of this nation, which were based upon the rights of land-owning white men.

I question the legitimacy of our story line, in which we crow about our love of “equality” and “freedom”.

I question the wisdom of pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth, and of demanding that our children blindly do the same.

I am reflecting deeply on the creation of our country. I am acutely aware of all of the good that has been accomplished within our borders. I am grateful for the fact that my grandparents were welcomed here as immigrants, even as I acknowledge the fact that it was their desperation and their willingness to work for pennies that opened that door to them.

I am an American.

I am a teacher.

I am aware that without self-reflection and an honest look at ourselves, there can be no progress, no growth, no better future.

Because I am an American patriot, I believe that it is my duty to reflect honestly on all that has made this country successful. But I believe just as firmly that is my duty to reflect honestly on all of the mistakes, failures, crimes and injustices that have paved our way to this moment.

America: Love it by asking every single day that it become something even better and stronger than it was yesterday.

I Absolutely DID See Color Today


And that’s a very good thing.

What a great day I had today.

It was very close to 100 degrees here in Northern Massachusetts. Not a good day to do yard work, but definitely a perfect day to go to the lake nearby.

Our small town doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of culture, or the arts, or fine dining. We are a small, semi-rural community of folks who kind of scrap our way to a decent living. We have lots of woods, tons of deer and rabbits and fox, and more than a few black bears.

We tend to vote Republican, and we consider ourselves to be working class all the way.

We are also home to some incredibly beautiful places, including a gorgeous lake and campground that we often take for granted.

Today my smart daughter invited me to join her and her three little kids at our beautiful Lake Dennison, and of course I said yes. I wanted to find a way to stay cool in this scary heatwave, but I also went because I wanted to play with my grandkids.

And this is where I need to add my back story.

I’ve lived in this small town since 1990. My husband and I raised our three kids here. I’ve been to Lake Dennison a hundred times or more.

But today I realized that times have changed.

Thirty years ago, when I brought my kids to this beach, every face was white. Every single one.

But today was different.

Today I helped my grandson as he shared toys with an adorable little boy with brown skin and a Spanish speaking Momma. We all laughed and my daughter and I shared stories of motherhood with this funny, warm, sweet woman and her child.

And today I got to chat with a beautiful young African American woman as she snuggled her 4 month old niece in her arms. The baby looked at me with an intense frown and a look of total concentration. Then her entire body seemed to react to me and she grinned, showing two of the deepest dimples I have ever seen. She opened her brown eyes wide and raised her brows. She looked at me as if she knew me, and my heart absolutely melted right into my sandy bare toes.

Today I played in the water with a bunch of kids who had blond hair, brown hair, red hair. I laughed and splashed with kids whose carefully observing parents were black, brown, Hispanic, Asian, French Canadian and white.Every single one of the adults was hyper alert. Every single one talked to their kids about the fine art of sharing beach toys. Every one smiled back at my smile and every one shared our stories about “it goes by so fast!”

And I saw those people.

I saw them for our shared humanity. I saw them as people who were just like me in our desire to escape this awful heat on the shores of our little lake. I saw them as other parents, other grandparents, other caretakers of children.

But I also saw our differences. I saw. And I celebrated the gift that my grandchildren are given every time they have a chance to meet and play with children who have a different ethnic and racial background than their own.

I’d be totally lying if I said that I didn’t recognize the racial differences between my family and those who sat on the sand beside us. I did see it. I did recognize it and think about it. I was totally tuned in to the Asian Mom and her Black husband who brought their three kids to the beach. I was acutely aware of the folks speaking Spanish, and to those who were speaking accented English.

To me, one of the best parts of this refreshing day was my awareness of just how multi-cultural and inter-racial it was.

But even better than that is the realization that my grand kids were only aware of their interactions with other kids. Other kids.

THEY didn’t see race or ethnicity or language or economic status. All they saw was a day full of new friends, a chance to meet new kids, a life after the pandemic lockdown. They looked at the crowd of humans and in their minds, the group was broken down into two groups: close to my age and not close to my age.

Kid/potential friend vs adult/not a potential friend.

This is what gives me hope for our future.

While Nonni was happy to be in a multi-racial place, my grandchildren were creating a world where the only question that mattered was whether or not the person in front of them was a potential playmate.

I love this.

I feel uplifted.

Children give me such hope.

Exhausted in the USA


Good God in Heaven.

I am exhausted.

I am morally worn down, emotionally defeated, psychologically damaged and socially bankrupt.

Why, you ask, am I so completely done in and unable to function? I’ll tell you.

Politics, that’s why. Way too much of my time and energy has gone toward trying to make some sense of the American political situation. I have finally come to the conclusion that there is no longer any sense to be made here, and any effort to understand and react to what goes on in this government is a total waste of time.

I’ve been a political junkie for years. I follow the news, read avidly, listen to podcasts and get updates from Reuters and the Associated Press. I fondly remember the days of yore, when political news reflected actual facts and real events. It used to be fun to debate with family and friends who felt differently that I did about various laws and policies. Those conversations used to feel like a wonderful exercise in logic.

Those were the good old days.

It’s different now.

Now we are faced with a total absence of reality in our political discourse. Progressives like me find ourselves trying to argue with a stream of lies that come flying at us like bullets from an AR-15.

How are we supposed to respond to statements and accusations that are complete fabrications? How can we use logic and facts to counter ideas that are at the same time illogical, frightening and completely fake?

I know; politicians have always used “spin” to shape public perceptions. I know.

But what we see today is different. It isn’t just one party choosing its words carefully to influence our opinions. No. What we see now is a group of elected officials who are absolutely making up lies and repeating them over and over again with such passion and sincerity that they sound like reality.

How does an intelligent citizen fight back against a phantom? How does a thoughtful person run a sward through a ghost?

It’s exhausting.

I find my mind racing, trying to form a coherent explanation for why everyone needs to stop ranting and screeching about Critical Race Theory being taught in public schools.

I mean……..what the hell?

There are American citizens actually fighting each other, physically fighting, because they don’t want their kids indoctrinated to hate white people. Even though NOTHING LIKE THAT IS BEING TAUGHT ANYWHERE. CRT is a set of legal interpretations, put forward by legal scholars. It’s been debated and thought about for decades.

But hundreds of thousands of people believe that CRT is a new book, or a curriculum, or a sinister plot to brainwash our children. Why? Because political leaders keep repeating the lie. Over and over and over again.

Trying to form a logical response is impossible.

As a progressive American, I’d like to be talking about our overinflated military budget. I’d like to be gathering information about the benefits of universal healthcare coverage. I know how to find data to support my opinions. I like doing that!

But I can’t fight against the lie that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by the Chinese who magically substituted fake ballots on bamboo paper for millions of real completed ballots. I can’t figure out how to use logic to point out that multiple audits, studies, searches and lookbacks found NO fraud. Millions of dead people did not vote. Ballots weren’t changed after the fact.

It’s exhausting trying to think of a possible response. I can’t do it.

There is no Jewish Space Force. There is no international group of pedophile cannibals trying to take over the world. Joe Biden is not a Marxist and the radical left isn’t trying to turn our children into mask-wearing robotic automatons. Nobody is coming for the damn guns.

And while we’re at it, the people who violently attacked the US Capitol and tried to assassinate the Vice President and members of Congress were NOT “tourists”.

Lies are lies, no matter how many times they are repeated.

Trying to push back against them is just too much for this exhausted, aging lefty. I think the fight is out of me.

I just don’t know how to respond to the combination of crazy, ignorant and dishonest that has taken root in Washington DC.

Dear Ms. S,


Today I stood in the hallway outside of my bedroom door, listening in as my sweet Ellie had her last kindergarten lessons.

I stood there in the hall, listening through the door, letting the tears flow free.

Oh, my goodness, my dear Ms. S

I have no idea how you did it!

As I stood there, eavesdropping shamelessly on your classroom, I felt as if I had stumbled into a strange time travel machine.

Wasn’t it just the other day when I stood in this very same spot, anxious and afraid, sure that remote kindergarten would be a horribly failed experiment for my first grandchild?

Wasn’t it just a few short days ago when I leaned against this door, hoping to hear the sound of Ellie’s voice as she (hopefully) engaged in your lessons?

How is it possible that under the pressures of Covid 19 time itself has become a stretchy, malleable, unknowable concept?

I don’t know. I have no answers.

Just as I have absolutely NO explanation for how it is that you managed to give your students the most wonderful kindergarten experience, although none of you have ever met or hugged or shared a meal?

My dear Ms. S,

I am so sad to see this wonderful year coming to an end. And I am so relieved and so happy and so unbelievably grateful for what you and your colleagues have achieved this year.

I know that you’ll be tempted to read all of the online opinions about what happened in our schools this year. I know. You’ll tell yourself that it doesn’t really matter, but I am sure that you’ll feel it deep in your heart when you hear all of the references to “learning loss” and how much our children have suffered.

You’re a teacher: I know you will take every criticism to heart.

But let me share my thoughts about this most historic and magical and astonishing school year.

My little Ellie came into your class as a shy, insecure, uncertain learner. She didn’t utter a word in her preschool class for the first 6 weeks.

But when she came to you, via Zoom, gazing into her “kindergarten Ipad”, she became a learner. She became a student.

She made friends, and I must say that this is the fact that astonishes me the most. Under your kind and warm guidance, Ellie quickly understood that she was a part of a community of learners. She learned new names and new faces; and she learned which of “my friends” share her interests and which simply intrigue her because they are so funny.

I watched our little girl grow this year. In a normal school year, I would have had no contact with her classroom life. But because of the pandemic, I was able to lurk in the hallway outside of her door, hearing the sound of her laughter, her interest, her engagement.

I heard my grandchild grow up.

Thank you.

In September, Ellie was afraid to admit that she knew how to spell her name. She was unsure, cautious, nervous to take a risk.

In June, her favorite activity is grabbing a book (any book) and reading to her younger brothers and her grandparents. She writes stories, writes notes, pretends to be a reporter as she interviews me.

Because of your calm, assured, joyful approach to school, Ellie is proud to announce that “I’m a good mathemetician”. She is sure of her intelligence. She is willing to sound out words that are completely new to her.

Dear Ms. S,

How does an aging grandmother, a retired teacher, a highly emotional activist woman ever manage to express how grateful I am for all that you and your staff have accomplished this year?

I don’t know.

I don’t know what to say, or how to thank you, or how to fully express all of the ways that you made this year seem “normal” and “manageable” and “safe”.

You are my hero.

You will always be my hero.

I still remember the love and care that I received from my kindergarten teacher back in 1960. I can still see her face and hear her deep voice.

You’ve managed to give my little granddaughter the same sense of wonder, the same belief in herself and the same social skills that I was given so many decades ago.

Thank you.

Thank you.

I always cry on the last day of school; this year my tears are more complex, more numerous, and more deeply felt.

We will owe you our gratitude forever.Age of Awareness

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The Joys and Sorrows of June.


I’m not teaching anymore, but I still feel the intense emotions of June. I remember 22 years of “last day of school” tears and celebrations. For teachers, that last day is a profoundly exhausting combination of delight and grief.

Every year, the nest would empty. Every year, the hugs got me through, and the promises of staying in touch helped me to let go.

Every year I cried my heart out all the way home, then threw myself into the pleasures of summer with a sense of accomplishment. Every year, every June, on every last day, this is what I wanted to say.

Dear kids,

Dear 24 funny, silly, confusing, demanding, charming, annoying, inspiring children who have been in my classroom for the past 180 days.

I love you.

I really love your silliness and the way that you got me to laugh out loud even when I was trying to read you the riot act. I’ll never forget the time one of you sat through an entire math lesson with a crown of leaves in your hair, just because you were having so much fun learning about the first Olympics. I’ll always laugh when I remember you all flipping origami frogs into the air when I turned my back.

You were so much fun!

Dear class of mine, I also love you so much for all of the ways you’ve matured and grown this year. I will always be touched and pleased when I remember your parents telling me, “My son said that in your class everyone always got along.” I’ll always be proud of the way all of you decided, on your own, that you should skip recess one day because you realized that you had been cruel to a classmate with invisible disabilities. I will forever be brought to tears as I remember you, the handsome, smart, funny, cool kids as you apologized to your classmate and asked him to be “captain” of your recess football team.

You gave me such hope for the future, back then; knowing that you are out there in the world gives me hope even today.

Dear, sweet fifth grade class,

I surely love you for the ways that you have made me stop and think.

Thanks for helping me to understand what I meant when I told you that we would all need to be able to work together. Thank you for teaching me that a group of people can be “colleagues” and “team mates” even if they aren’t actually friends.

Thank you for helping me to learn what it means to be my best self. You helped me to understand that it was OK, and more than OK, to tell you that I loved you. You helped me to accept the fact that children learn best from those they trust to love them. You taught me that I didn’t need to be aloof or emotionally protected or separate from you. All of you taught me that when I showed my weaknesses, it helped you to manage your own. You taught me that we are all a little scared, all a little overwhelmed, all afraid that “nobody will like me.”

It’s June. Our time together is coming to its inevitable final day.

What in the world will I do without you?

Dear beloved, exhausting kids,

I bet you don’t have any idea of just how hard this month is for teachers like me. You probably think we are happy about the end of another school year.

But you are wrong. I am not happy to be leaving you behind. I am not happy to be handing you off to an entirely new team of teachers.

Sure, those teachers are my colleagues and my friends, but that doesn’t matter. They are great teachers, wonderful people, kind and supportive adults….but whatevs. YOU are MINE. I have spent the past ten months dreaming about you, planning for you, talking about you and loving every little thing that makes you so special.

I am not happy about passing you on to the next teaching team. In my deepest, darkest, secret Momma/teacher heart, I worry that next year’s teacher won’t understand you the way that I do.

I mean. C’mon. Could any other teacher possibly be as excited as me about your fractions projects? I think not.

So.

Dear kids,

Dear unique, wonderful, lovely and loving group of kids,

I am not even a tiny bit happy about the fact that our short year together has come to an end.

June is not a happy month for loving and engaged teachers.

June means letting go, and trusting that other adults will love you as much as I do.

But I will open my arms and let you fly free, because that’s what all good nurturing adults must do. It may break our hearts, but it lets you move up and on and away, into the life that awaits you.

Dear parents of young children,

Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful kids with me. Thank you for trusting me to guide them through the scary world of fifth grade math and the scarier world of fifth grade social life.

Dear parents, thank you for telling me what you think. And thank you for asking me what I see as I look at your child.

It’s June. Thank you, dear trusting parents. Thank you for letting me love and guide and support your child for the past nine months. Without your trust, I could never have moved your child forward in all of these ways. You and I have been a great team this year; I will always be so grateful to you for letting me take on my role on that team.

It has been a long and challenging year. To be honest, they are all long and challenging. And every one of them is filled with the process of shaping friendships and creating a healthy educational community.

And now, as always, we find ourselves faced with the stresses of June and the inevitable goodbyes that come with every summer break.

As always, the best teachers are mourning the loss of this year’s special community of learners. As always, the ticking of the clock into summer fills our teachers with a sense of loss and sadness that people outside of public education cannot begin to understand.

It is June.

I hope that everyone who has ever been a student, everyone who has ever parented a student, everyone who has ever supported, taught and nurtured a student, will take this moment to look back in awe in all that has been accomplished in ten short months of life.

Being a teacher is a gift and a joy and blessing that I think only those in the trenches can fully understand.

So to every child and every parent, I say, “Happy summer! I will never forget you or our time together as a micro community. You have forever changed my life.”

Thinking About Our Alien Visitors


Boy howdy. I haven’t been this excited about UFOs since the 1960s, when my big brother used to insist to me that aliens were hovering over our house all night.

I could hardly sleep back then, partly because I was afraid that I’d miss all the UFO excitement and never get the chance to meet the alien beings. And partly because I was convinced that a Martian was going to crawl in my window and eat my brains.

Either way, the prospect of a UFO sighting dominated a lot of backyard conversation back then.

And that excitement is back once again, thanks to an eagerly awaited Pentagon report on UFO sightings around the globe.

I can’t sleep now, either, although that might be due to age more than aliens. Still, the excitement and curiosity have my little brain all abuzz.

What if there really is some distant civilization that has somehow discovered our tiny blue planet? What if they really are hypersonically zooming around our atmosphere and observing us with their weird insectile eyes?

Wouldn’t they have made contact with us by now?

I actually have a theory about that.

See, I was thinking that if the space invaders starting watching us in the 1960s, they may have decided that this planet had a lot of evolving to do before it would be safe to visit. They would have flown over us and observed thick clouds of smoke choking humanity’s major cities. Even from space, they would have noticed the stinking rivers of sludge, the stench of burning coal, and the tar-soaked coastlines.

“Jeez”, they would have chittered to each other, “These creatures don’t even know enough not to foul their own nests.”

They would have been appalled.

Naturally, they would also have seen the fighting, slaughtering, murdering and warring going on all over the place. “Too stupid to realize they’re all the same species,” the boss alien would have sighed. “Let’s keep looking for a safer planet to visit. How bout if we give these beings a chance to work things out? We can come back in 50 or 60 years, see if there are any signs of improvement.”

Off they may have zipped, disappearing into the void in search of something better.

So what if they came back in the early 2000s? Do you think they would have decided to land here and make friends?

I can imagine the conversation as the new and improved hypersupersonic intergalactic vehicle began its approach to earth.

“Sir”, the Vice Boss Alien would have said, “Our instruments show that the pollution problems on Earth have been greatly reduced.”

“Good news, VBA, thank you!”

“Yessir. That is the good news. But that’s about all the good news I can give you. The rest of the story is pretty grim.”

Boss Alien would have sighed through little vents in his upper back.

“Full report, please.”

“Well, sir, it appears that a deadly virus has begun to circulate the earth. The humans are dropping like flies. They haven’t been able to figure out how they can keep themselves safe, even though their rudimentary science has shown them that if they put small pieces of material over their breathing holes, the virus can be kept away.”

“Vice Boss, I’m sorry. You’re not making sense. They KNOW that covering their breathing holes will protect the species, right? What do you mean they haven’t figured it out?”

“It’s very hard for advanced species like us to understand, sir… but these primitive creatures are fighting each other over facts. They seem to be quite superstitious and they definitely don’t trust each other.

Let me explain a little more, sir. You see, they have also found a preventative treatment, a vaccine, that will protect them. But these creatures are unable to cooperate with each other to share the treatments, so some of them are safe, while others are getting sicker and dying more quickly. And some of the sick ones want the treatment, but the healthy ones refuse to take it. It’s basically a mess.”

Boss Alien would have been confused, but he would have studied his instruments in search of something hopeful.

He would have been disappointed.

“H’mmmmm. I see that the slaughtering has continued. These creatures have been killing each other on the same small patches of sand since the last time we were here. They haven’t learned one damn thing, have they? There are still babies starving all over the place, the number of non-human species is dwindling, they’re running out of water…….

…..and it’s a lot hotter than it was last time we flew by.”

The Vice Boss would have looked at his report once more, and then he would have closed the cover.

“It’s definitive then?”

“I’m afraid so, VBA. It’s time to move on.

“There is clearly no intelligent life here.”

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

The Empty Nest, Redoux


So here I am again. Trying to make myself into the supportive, happy adult who celebrates the launching of the children. Trying to be happy for them. Trying to embrace the wonderful new adventures that await them.

Trying to silence the woman inside of me who can’t even begin to understand how all of this could have unfolded so quickly. Trying to come to terms with the fact that a baby’s time is the blink of an eye, that the toddler gets to her feet before you can take in a breath, that the little girl can go from taking a bottle to reading a book in the time it takes for her grandmother to turn around.

Six years ago, almost to this very day, I realized that my time as a teacher had to come to an end. I left my classroom and said goodbye to my friends while mourning the change that confronted me. I wasn’t ready to retire, but I did. It was the right thing to do, given the political winds that were blowing.

But it was also the right thing to do because I was in desperate need of something to make me feel useful and wanted and important. It worked out perfectly for me, because my daughter was in need of a safe, secure, affordable child care option.

So Ellie, my sweet first grand child, became my saving grace, my saving responsibility, my link to my nurturing inner self. Even as I mourned the fact that I was no longer teaching a group of children to love learning, even as I missed those moments when I would laugh out loud with 24 young kids, I learned to embrace my role as the “Momma stand in”.

My days of watching little Ellie were the bridge that allowed me to move from my professional career to my retirement life. Her smiles were my pay checks. Her hugs were my lifeline. Her first words, first steps, first solid foods were my reassurance that I remained relevant in this world.

Every time I bathed Ellie, and wrapped her in a towel, I was reminded of my mothering years. I was reminded and reassured that I was actually really good at this nurturing woman thing. Ellie’s trusting gaze, her arms reaching up for me, the way that her parents trusted me to protect and care for her; all of this let me grow into this next phase of my life. It let me move past the grief and anger of my last year of teaching and find a place where I could once again embrace and accept my strengths along with my many weaknesses.

I loved being “Nonni” to my grandchild. I loved the way she looked at me, and the way she missed me when we were apart. I relied on her love and her acceptance as I settled into my retirement life.

And when her brothers were born, it was all of that time with Ellie that let me seamlessly move into my role as Nonni and daycare provider for all three of them.

Because of my time with Ellie, my house now contains more art supplies than any craft store. Due to the fact that I was totally smitten with her, we have three toy boxes, two Pack N’ Plays, a giant box of playdoh and and ten pounds of kinetic sand. We have bibs, and potty chairs and sippy cups and paint smocks.

When Ellie was born, I became the next generation of caregivers. I stepped in to support my daughter by letting her be a teacher while I changed her baby’s diapers and snuggled her girl to sleep.

So.

You can probably understand why I am feeling sad and proud and nostalgic and scared, all at once.

Ellie, my sweet next generation first baby, is about to finish kindergarten. She did this year through remote learning, so she has been here with me for a year longer than we had ever anticipated.

But this crazy, terrifying, upsetting year of Covid is finally winding down. Ellie is one short week away from finishing her kindergarten year. She has learned more than I could ever have predicted. She has gained confidence in her intellect, and is trusting her own ideas and her own voice. She has her own sense of style, and her own preferences in food, fashion, music and art.

She is ready, or more than ready, to take on her next big step in life.

She is ready to go off to first grade, to meet new friends, to learn a million new things, to grow into her own bright and spirited self.

And I am so happy for her.

And so incredibly sad for me.

My nest is beginning to empty once again. My beautiful little fledglings are getting ready to fly.

And it’s good. It is just as it should be.

And my heart hurts just as much as it did the last time I faced the sorrow of the empty nest.

Ah, life.

You really do break our hearts.